Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Greg Kihn Greg Kihn Again 1977

Greg Kihn was a hard-working power-popster that put many miles on the road as the opening act for everyone big in the eighties. He managed a #2 hit in 1983 with Jeopardy, riding a nice hook and some major MTV support for the video. He produced a string of pop-heavy rock and roll throughout the eighties, and all of the records had at least one fine single that was lost on the lower regions of the chart.

He broke out in 1975 on the Beserkely Chartbusters Vol. 1 compilation he shared with Jonathon Richmond, Earthquake, and the Rubinoos. His All The Right Reasons was pop confection perfection. In 1976 he made his eponymous debut, and that was a splendid outing that rivals the follow-up under inspection here. But the debut used a borrowed lead guitarist, and some of the songs were less developed.

Everything great about Kihn's work is fully on display on Greg Kihn Again. The songs are consistently excellent, Dave Carpenter joins the band on lead guitar, and shines, the production is first rate and "bigger" than the debut, and Kihn's warm vocals invite easy smiles. As smart pop goes, Kihn is as good as anyone at incorporating classic sounds into what seem like completely original songs. If this is what happens when you blend Beatles, Raspberries and Big Star, then why not?

The record kicks off with Buddy Holly's Love's Made A Fool Of You, and Kihn's version is as good as any. A jangly, driving rhythm number that updates the Holly sound only slightly, and Dave Carpenter rocks the lead break as well as fills throughout. Next up is the Reggae-light Kihn original Island, which is a jaunty dose of Caribbean fun. Last Of Me is a lovely ballad than Kihn does so well. A nice chorus filled with harmonies, the song is a fine example of the quality ballads that Kihn cranks out regularly. Real Big Man is a hook-filled rocker with fine harmonies and a solid lyric. Side one ends with Politics, a great mid-tempo rocker with another fine chorus.

Side two opens with Hurt So Bad, yet another fine pop song with a catchy chorus and a tight band workout. Then it's Springsteen's For You, and it turns out to be a excellent choice for a cover song. If You Be My Love is another solid ballad with beautiful harmonies, and jangly rhythm that benefits from Kihn's 12-string guitar. And then we get one of Kihn's finest moments, the stomping Madison Avenue, where Kihn sells himself as "your Madison Avenue man, let me touch your money with my Madison hands", and again with the great back-up vocal harmonies and tight ensemble playing. The record closes with the instrumental Untie My Hands, and Dave Carpenter gets to show us why he's such a hot guitarist. It's not the highlight of the record, but it's good.

Greg Kihn made an album a year from 1976 to 1986, and continued to record regularly until 1996. All of his eighties albums contained at least one solid single, and most of them were darn good. His 1989 Kihnsolidated: The Best of Greg Kihn is a great place to hear some of the best neglected pop songs ever recorded. Kihn became a popular radio DJ in 1996 at the San Jose/San Francisco KFOX and stayed there in the morning slot until 2012, a pretty solid run for that kind of job. He released an album of new songs, Rekihndled, in 2017 with his son Ry on lead guitar.

A super-tight band, fine singer, good songs, and good old-fashioned harmonies applied to smart, hook-filled pop nuggets all make Greg Kihn Again a treat for pop-rockers the world over.

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